Carnegie Mellon Press Release: May 18, 2004
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Press Release

Anne Watzman

For immediate release:
May 18, 2004

Carnegie Mellon Student to Demonstrate Unique Origami-Folding Robot Wednesday, May 19

Devin Balkcom, a student in Carnegie Mellon University's robotics program, has developed one of the world's first origami-folding robots as the subject of his doctoral thesis. Origami, the ancient Japanese art of paper sculpture, looks deceptively simple at first glance. A five-year-old can learn to fold origami, but the movements it requires are quite complex. Balkcom's thesis project uses kinematics, the study of mechanisms, to determine how folding motions are made and how paper can be treated as both a flexible and a rigid material. Because robots are so often used for industrial and manufacturing purposes, they are engineered to work with rigid materials. Paper presents a significant problem because it is flexible.

See how Balkcom has taught his robot to do origami and overcome this problem. He says understanding this problem may lead to more capable robots in the future. "Robots are a tool for understanding the physics and mathematics of the world around us," Balkcom says. "Once you build a robot that can duplicate human tasks, you can learn more about human skills that we often take for granted." Videos of the origami robot folding a paper airplane and a hat are available at

WHEN: 10 a.m. Wednesday, May 19.

A519 Newell-Simon Hall, Carnegie Mellon campus. Enter Newell-Simon Hall on level three. As you come through the lobby, take the first corridor to your right where the elevators are located. Take the elevator to the A level. Make a right and another right at the corridor marked 500. Proceed to the end of the corridor and make a left. 519 will be the second door on your right. Signs will be posted.


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